Sunday, 30 October 2011

Worksop Half Marathon 2011

The Worksop Half Marathon is a well organised race hosted by Worksop Harriers and supported by Bassetlaw District Council. The race starts at 10.30am the day after the clocks go back which means a welcome extra hour in bed.This year's event had a bit of a spooky theme in celebration of Halloween. Runners assembled around a crowded start line with some entrants choosing to wait in "the wings" in order to get a better start at the front of the field. Some minutes later a local Councillor wished the runners well and set us off along the 13.1 mile route. The majority of this picturesque road race runs through the National Trust property, Clumber Park.

Clumber Park
The route is traffic free and passes mostly along country lanes flanked by woods and trees that offer brilliant autumn colours.My own race was a run of two halves.I was aware of a hill that lasts the most part of the first mile and so decided to start slowly, deal with the incline then push on after the second mile. I was pretty tired by the time I reached the top and felt sluggish for the next five miles or so. By mile seven I decided to try and get into a better rhythm, the race was feeling harder than it should have done and I didn't much fancy labouring through the next six miles. I extended my stride and by mile 9 I felt much better and was running strong.
Post Race Massage
I had seen a club friend Stuart Sinclair (Grantham AC) at the start and watched as he ran well up the hill in the first mile. By the top of the hill Stuart was out of sight and I hadn't expected to see him again but sometime before the 11 mark I noticed Stuart some way ahead. Slowly he came back to me and with a tinge of guilt I offered a few words of encouragement and passed Stuart with only two miles to go. I'd had enough of the race by this point and any speed I mustered was only because I wanted to get home. The hill in the first mile turns into a welcome descent before the finish and I managed a strong finish in 1:29:59. Stuart kept the pace and followed seconds later in 1:30:42 nice one Stuart. Another Grantham runner, Ged Cowley finished in 2:11:53. Runners received a finished bag with a decent t-shirt, energy bar, energy gel and a sweat band. An all round decent event and good value for money.   


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Dave Lewis Challenge - 27 Miles Newark on Trent

If I have described other events as "low key" this must be the lowest key event of the all. Six people turned out to run the 27 mile route and a further ten or so decided to walk or run a shorter ten mile version. Both events are organsied by Rob Ellis assisted by other members of Newark Athletics Club. If you are thinking of running this event in future years It is to be recommended despite the low turn out. The event is a memorial race to commemorate the life of Dave Lewis who was a dedicated Newark athlete and coach. The event raises money for charities approved by Dave's widow Janet. This year's charity was a breast cancer awareness charity and by the time I had finished running, £350 had already been raised. The event isn't advertised extensively and there were other local races clashing with the weekend including the Round Rotherham, Spires and Steeples and a one of 10K along the newly built A46 bypass all of which would help to explain the low numbers of entrants in 2011. This is friendly event across a runnable, flat course with plenty of features along the way.
Organiser Rob Ellis looks for other entrants
At 8.30am Janet made a short address of thanks and then started us off from the Kelham Fox  pub outside Newark on a route to Upton, Southwell, Morton, Bleasby, along Boat Lane to the River Trent before heading Noth East along the river towards Fiskerton, Farndon and Staythorpe before heading back to Upton and finally back to Kelham. I ran all the way to Boat lane with the other five entrants. It was helpful for others to confirm the route. The previous year I had taken 7 hours to complete the event having navigational mishaps at most turns. In fact this year I was surprised at how much of the route I didn't remember from the year before probably because in 2010 I had done an unofficial 'lost' version of the event! I knew the route fairly well after Boat Lane and so I ran on. It was lucky that I kept a glancing eye on the route description as the route had changed because the organsier decided not to send us on the loop out towards the river. As a consequence I arrived at Farndon much quicker than previous years. My legs were tiring after 20 or so miles and the shortened route was a welcome and unexpected relief. I took a wrong turn through a farm yard and when I retreated I was encountered by the owner. The farmyard was mess, there derelict cars everywhere and a massive barking Alsatian dog which thankfully was chained. The scene resembled a backyard in the American outback and the grey haired pony tailed occupier that approached me added to the image. I made my excuses, apologised for my trespass and before he had time to draw his shotgun which I bet he had up his trouser leg I ran off.   I ran on to Upton and ate copious amounts of banana and poppy seed cake at the checkpoint. After Upton you run through a good sized orchard. there were loads of good apples on the floor, a wasted harvest I thought. I picked an apple off a tree on the way through. It tasted sweet and juicy, another unexpected treat to assist me on the final five or so, miles. The final checkpoint before home was 'manned' which again was unexpected as the route description described a self clip. I took advantage of the refreshments and set off for Kelham. The final few miles were as usual, hard. Just as I was about to have a leg relieving walk I spotted some walkers on the ten mile route in the distance. They had realised I was approaching and because I was at the front of the 27 mile field they took an interest and paused to welcome me through. I had to keep running, I couldn't lose face. I trotted by and we congratulated each other. I was glad to hit the main road and the short distance back to the Kelham Fox in a time of 4 hours 15 minutes to receive a certificate and a couple of quality street chocolates which were very welcome. Five minutes later a couple of other runners returned with the next two arriving as I left for a shower. I learned that the sixth entrant had got lost and decided to retire and walk back to Kelham. The Dave Lewis Challenge is a fine event. The route is runnable and full of features including, woods, an orchard, views of Southwell Minster Cathedral, the magnificent River Trent, Staythorpe Power Station, two crossings of horse gallops and a pub at the finish.           

Greek Adventures

Church of Agia Eleni before dawn
I always go on holiday intending to stay fit and take in plenty of local runs during my stay. The good intentions are usually challenged by the temptations of the local food and ale. During a two week stay near Parga on the Greek mainland events took their usual path. Gyros (kebabs), Mythos (Ale) and sun loungers on the beach aren't conducive to fitness. Despite this I managed two runs over the fortnight which were more like short shuffles up local hills to explore. The first trip began at 5.30am having stumbled back to the hotel with my partner and another couple we had met after a drunken night out. I decided in a half drunk but sobering stupor that it would be good to take advantage of the early hour and run up the hill opposite the hotel to take some pictures of the sunrise. We had walked up the hill the previous day and had come across a typical Greek Chapel at the summit called the Holy Church of Agia Eleni. I knew it would take an hour or so to get to the summit which was plenty of time before sunrise but I was concerned about finding my way through the olive groves in the dark.
Sun rises above Agia Eleni
Happily my partner reminded me that we had bought a mini torch off a homeless person the previous evening. I returned to the hotel briefly to change. I set off still drunk but sobering, for the top of Agia Eleni. I found the track through the olive groves and ascended at a steady pace I was a bit worried that if the torch failed I would get lost. It only cost three Euros and I half expected it to fail. I reached the top just before 6.30am it was still dark with no sign of an early dawn. Dawn didn't arrive until about 7am and I spent 45 minutes or so pacing round outside the chapel and sneaking forty winks whilst being careful not to fall asleep. Shortly before sunrise I heard the chapel door open. I was standing on the viewing platform out of sight and I was slightly surprised that anyone else would have come up the hill in the dark. I had been told previously that Greek Chapel's are often owned by families and family members would make the daily pilgrimage to clean the chapel and pray before dawn. I kept out of the way until they were gone but then had sneaky a peak inside to see that two candles had been lit. Shortly afterwards dawn broke gradually. I was a bit disappointed
That trusty torch
at first as the light came without the sun but a short time later the sun began to rise above the distant mountains and I was treated to views across a shimmering Aegean sea. The small local fishing boats were heading out into the vast expanse of blue. They looked like miniature white dots in the distance.The sun had illuminated the town of Parga in the opposite direction, the scene of the previous evening's shenanigans. I stayed for a little while longer admiring the spectacular views but tiredness was setting in. I signed the guest book in the Chapel and then ran back through the olive groves and on to the hotel. I finally got to bed just before 8am and slept through till midday. Tracy was by the pool when I woke and I was grateful that she agreed to a pool day so I could deal with my latent hangover. The torch never let me down.
A solitary wild flower breaking through the trail.
The second run of the holiday involved running back from Lichnos back to the town of Parga. We had spent the day being lazy on the beach. Tracy decided to take the water taxi back around the mountain and I decided it was a good opportunity to run the five or so miles over the hill along the coast back through the olive groves to Parga. The scenery around the Epirus coast is spectacular, blue sea surrounds high mountains covered in olive groves. Wild flowers provide a sweet natural aroma which mixes well with the taste of the sticky heat. Nets lie extensively throughout the groves ready to catch the abundant crop which is harvested in October. The olives from the region are pressed and I am told the resulting olive oil heads mainly for the Italian market. It is an inspiring place to run. I'm a bit of a wimp running in foreign places. I had asked a waiter at lunch if there were any local hazards. He told me that snakes were prevalent in the olive groves but I was unlikely to encounter one if I kept to the mountain track. In any event he told me if bitten you would have "time to react". I though he meant time to fight with the snake but on further enquiry he meant time to get to hospital, phew...  
Olive grove on the hill
Tracy left on the water taxi I then started the ascent of the hill. I took two large bottles of iced water with me and drank the first whilst using the other to pour over my head. The initial climb reduced me to a walk but I managed to shuffle on again when I hit the olive groves. I ran happily along the track pausing to take a couple of photos along the way. The aromas of the foliage and the sight of wild flowers breaking through the trail were inspiring and it was great to be running such a beautiful place. I didn't pass any other people during the run and the sense of remoteness added to the pleasure. I arrived back in Parga